The Bitch Is Back
Nothing But The Truth
Belly of the Beast
Happy Birthday, Vera
Think Inside The Box
Coup De Grace
After the shocking finale to last year’s season, Wentworth returns with the shockwaves of Bea’s (Danielle Cormack) death weighing heavily over the prison. In many ways Season 5 feels like a bit of a hangover for Wentworth; the drama is still as tense as ever and the character work solid but the fragmented plot line has a big impact on the overall pacing this year. A lack of a key protagonist to rally behind like Bea is another issue too although the main plot line and general script work is as tense and dramatic as it’s ever been in the show.
The story picks up right where it left off last year – Allie (Kate Jenkinson) awakens from her comatose state to learn Bea Smith has passed away and Ferguson (Pamela Rabe) is at the forefront of the drama. With Kaz (Tammy Macintosh) struggling to control the women and tension rising high, the tentative position of Top Dog becomes the focal point for much of this season as Ferguson and Lucy (Sally-Anne Upton) both pull a power play vying to wrestle control of Top Dog away from Kaz. While this power struggle, driven by Ferguson’s manipulative , the sub plots include an attempted prison escape, a surprise return to Wentworth for one inmate and the continued drama between the officers themselves. There’s no denying there’s an awful lot going on this year but Bea’s absence is most certainly felt through large portions of this season.
The true winner in the aftermath of Bea’s death is without doubt Ferguson. Her presence is felt all over the 12 episodes and her charismatic instability anchors the season with a defining antagonist. It’s a pity then that there isn’t a protagonist to really challenge her authority and rally behind, with many of the women seemingly stuck in a state of perplexion for large portions of the season, struggling to match up to Bea’s presence. That’s not to say the other characters fall by the wayside without Bea anchoring them, Franky (Nicole da Silva) steps up and has an important role this year, Allie becomes a much more prominent character and the various other women in Cell Block H1 do a good job strengthening their familial tie in the wake of the tragedy. Following a shocking plot twist midway through the season, Kaz’s presence is relegated to a supporting role again and the dwindling screen time for many of last year’s focal characters does no favours in a season lacking a defining protagonist to fill Bea’s shoes.
Wentworth Prison remains one of the most endearing, absorbing melodramas on TV right now. The acting, cinematography and general high levels of tension is a reminder of just why this show is the pinnacle of prison drama. There’s a touch of human emotion thrown in too and intimate moments like Maxine’s transfer, Doreen’s plea for a transfer and the girls paying tribute to Bea produce a welcome relief from the relentless, suffocating tension hanging over the show. Wentworth Prison may not manage to reach the bar set by previous seasons but there’s enough here to warrant life after Bea Smith and for that alone, Wentworth is worth investing the time to watch.
Verdict - 8/10